Updated: May 23
I get a lot of questions about HOW to walk/hike with ponies. There are a lot of people out there wanting to start this but not wanting to do it wrong. I say just go for it!
I use a simple flat nylon or soft strap halter. Sometimes I use a rope halter. Sometimes I use my side pull bitless bridle. Sometimes I'll use Zorro's driving bridle - because I drive him in an open bridle. **Please don't use a driving bridle with blinders for walking and hiking.
I use 12' long yacht ropes. Shorter lead ropes only make things harder. I like to have the space to send the ponies out away from me and away from each other. Having that length means they aren't tempted to walk ON me. And that length will allow me to send one pony ahead on a narrow trail and have one right behind me. Shorter ropes would not allow for that. Also, long lead ropes give you more leverage over the pony. It's so much easier to get things under control when you have enough lead rope.
My ponies both wear boots when we walk on the road. Our roads are made from a road mix of gravel. This means there is a very hard base and then large sharp pieces of gravel spread on top.
If our roads were more sandy boots may not be necessary. But I don't like to see my ponies confidently striding along only to hit a rather large sharp rock, which causes them to be worried about striding out. Not only that but they end up with rocks jammed in between their frog and their sole which can be painful as well. The boots prevent that from happening and give them a nice layer of padded comfort to help with shock absorption as well.
I also have miniature horse back packs my ponies can wear. These each hold two water bottles and allow us to take snacks when we go for day hikes.
What I Wear
I have a hydrapack that I can wear to carry my own water. It's super windy here which makes bringing water very important for me. Otherwise, I can quickly get dehydrated.
I wear my hiking shoes that have a little bit of ankle support for some hikes and my sneakers for our road walks. In the winter I wear my Duckfoot sheepskin lined boots to keep my feet warm.
I wear lots of layers in the winter. Leggings under my waterproof and wind proof pants, long sleeve t-shirts, a hooded sweatshirt, a fleece pull over and a vest with a neck warmer and a knitted hat. Of course wool socks are a must.
In the summer I wear lightweight long pants that can also be tightened/shortened to be short pants. This is helpful for those times we go wading through creeks and ditches. I'll wear tank tops or light weight t-shirts and bring a hoodie because it can get cold up in the mountains sometimes! I will often wear my sandals or my sneakers, depending on where we are hiking and how hot it is! I wear my large straw hat that has a string so it doesn't blow off but protects both my face and the back of my neck. And of course lots of sun screen!!
Where We Walk
We live in an amazing place. We can walk out of our driveway and then go for miles and miles. We could walk from our driveway to BLM land where we would have access to 100s of miles of public land. We could walk from our driveway to the National Forest where we have 1000s of miles of public land to explore. Or we can stick to the roads close by and walk our normal 4,5 or 6 mile walk. On these walks we climb over 600 feet in altitude so we get a good workout!
When we haul up into the mountains I will park the trailer and then we head out from there. We can hike all day, exploring mountain lakes, meadows and gorgeous trails shared with mountain lions, wolves, bears, deer, moose, elk and all kind of small animals. I never go up in the mountains without my hand gun and my bear spray. Especially when it's just me, the ponies and my dog. We have run into a few of these animals but I always hope we won't really see too much when we are up there! LOL.
Our town has little trails, but I haven't taken my ponies there for walks. I know other towns around me have lovely trails as well, but loose dogs keep me from exploring those as well. However, I know that there are lots of people out there that have access to these wonderful city trails and I encourage you to take your pony and explore! Maybe be sure to have some pepper spray or bear spray to help with loose dogs...
I mowed a driving track in our 10 acre pasture and we walk out there sometimes too!
How Do I Manage Two Ponies?
It helps if one of your ponies is already trained to go for walks, walks politely at the end of a 10' long rope and listens to voice commands. If eating as you walk is an issue then taking the time to train them when it's alright to eat and when they need to simply walk is essential - and doesn't take much time at all!
If both of your ponies are trying to drag you, not listening and running you over, it's time to focus on one at a time. Ponies are highly intelligent and learn things really fast. They learn good behavior fast and bad behavior just as fast, so focus on what you want them to learn. If you take the time to train them your walks will be much more enjoyable.
I really love being able to send one pony off to the right, at the end of one 10' lead and the other off to the left at the end of the 10' lead and they are BOTH listening to my body language and my voice commands. It makes our walks so fun! Don't get me wrong, sometimes things don't go as planned, but we can quickly sort things out and continue on our way!
If you have a halter and a lead rope you are ready to start walking or hiking with your mini! As you go for longer and longer walks/hikes you will figure out those things that are important for you to take along. Don't stress too much about being 100% prepared. Safety is top priority but so is having fun!!